Tournament: PGA Championship, August 10-13, 2017
Course: Quail Hollow Club, 7,600 yards, par 71.
Defending Champion: Jimmy Walker. Basically a wire-to-wire win, it was still dicey in spots, especially as 2015 champ Jason Day eagled #18 right in front of him. But a 2 putt par from 30 feet sealed the deal.
Fun Fact: They are actually letting the pros wear shorts during practice round days (Mon-Wed). The players have been pushing for this, the Tour has been pushing back, so this is an experiment. It has been received well by the fans. The players will still be required to wear pants during tournament days.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 1-7 p.m. ET (TNT). Saturday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. (TNT), 2-7 p.m. (CBS).
Former 'Dawgs in the Field (Seven): Kevin Kisner, Brian Harman, Bubba Watson, Hudson Swafford, Russell Henley, Chris Kirk, Paul Claxton.
This is commonly referred to as the toughest field of the four majors, simply because of size and depth. There are 20 “club pros” in the field, the top 20 from the PGA Club Pro Championship held previously. But this field is essentially the top 70 in the world, winners of a major in the last 5 years, and a few others from the money lists. No amateurs, no sponsors exemptions, not much in international (other than those international players who have status on the PGA Tour).
The course may be a familiar one. It hosts the Wells Fargo Championship every year (except for this one as they prepped for a major). But the front nine will not be so familiar - the course underwent a redesign from renowned golf course architect Tom Fazio. Holes 1 and 2 were merged to create a monster 500+ yard par 4 opening hole (“screw the warm handshake, we’re here to kick your butt”), and I believe holes 5 and 6 were also merged. They carved out a hole or two here and there to fill in the gaps. Champion Bermuda greens which are supposedly as fast as players will see outside of Augusta, Bermuda grass rough which will get knarly after the early week rain and the late week sunshine, and 7600 yards of big, big, big golf course. I’d love to play it... I might not break 100 but I’d still love to try.
We got six Bulldogs into the field. Chris Kirk was a late addition after Brandt Snedeker withdrew because of a chest injury. Hope you feel better Brandt, but UGA is always a good replacement for a Vanderbilt Commodore. And speaking of feel good, check out this spotlight on PGATour.com on our own Brian Harman - indepth, and great perspective.
Bubba Watson will tee off at 8:15 am on #10.
Hudson Swafford will be not far behind at 8:50 am, but on #1 tee.
Russell Henley gets the afternoon going by starting on #10 at 12:50 pm.
Paul Claxton* joins Henley on the 10th tee at 12:50 pm.
Brian Harman is just after that at 1:40 pm, also on #10 tee.
Chris Kirk is at 1:45 pm from the first tee.
And Kevin Kisner rounds out the day for Dawgs starting on #1 at 1:55 pm.
I’m imagining the winning score to be around 10 under par, but don’t take that as gospel. The course may play long if the rain doesn’t go away, but the greens will still be quick. Big hitters usually have a big advantage, but if you’re not in the fairway you will have a long day and a short week. Bermuda rough can really grab your club, but those who are used to it can actually land short of the green and try to run balls up - this course doesn’t really protect the front of the greens like some others (including Firestone last week).
If you like Ernie Johnson (and really, who doesn’t like a DGD?), he will be most of the play by play for the TNT coverage so we should get even more Red & Black flavor this week. Tune it on over to TNT and CBS and let’s root on these Bulldogs as they try to capture the last major of 2017.
And as always...
*Article has been edited to reflect the additon of Paul Claxton. Paul had a long career on both the PGA and Web.com tours, and has recently become a club pro in South Georgia. He still has game, as evidenced by his top 5 finish in the PGA Professional Championship, made up of the best golfing club professionals across the country. That high finish means he qualified for this major championship. Hat tip to the reader that alerted me he was in the field.